The Senate voted Wednesday to roll back new rules designed to shield donors to some nonprofits from having their identities disclosed to the IRS, as Democrats won their first post-election battle for increased campaign transparency.
The 50-49 vote is unlikely to actually result in a repeal of the IRS rules, since the measure would still need approval in the House and the signature of President Trump — both unlikely.
But the vote was a major symbolic win for activists and Democrats who want to clamp down on campaigns and force tighter rules about spending and disclosure ahead of the 2020 election.
“This is about transparency. Tell me one time — one time — transparency isn’t a good thing?” said Sen. Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat who led the push.
He and fellow Democrats were harnessing the Congressional Review Act, known informally as the congressional veto, which gives Capitol Hill a chance to overturn new rules and regulations issued by the administration.
In this case, they were targeting an IRS rule released over the summer that said 501(c)(4) nonprofits would no longer have to report most donors in their tax filings.
The IRS said it could still demand to see the information if it wants to investigate, but it said asking for the information up front is not necessary and actually is too much of a burden to the tax agency.
Democrats said the IRS should still collect the information in order to assist future investigations, arguing that “dark money” threatens to overwhelm U.S. politics.
Republican leaders had fought to preserve the IRS regulations, saying they were an attempt to protect Americans’ privacy.
They pointed to instances when the IRS donor data leaked.
But Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, joined all 49 members of the Democratic Caucus in voting to overturn the rules.
Sen. Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republican, was absent, allowing the measure to prevail.
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